How My Disney Trip Helped with My Intuitive Eating Journey

I’m sitting here getting ready to make my dining reservations for a Disney trip we’re taking in the Fall of 2019. Our first family trip to Disney was in 2017 and that trip helped me learn a lot about myself, my disordered eating, and helped with my intuitive eating journey. 

What the heck is the connection between Disney and recovering from disordered eating? 

I’ll tell you. 

When you are so knee-deep in disordered eating, controlling every morsel of food that enters your mouth, and never straying from a rigid exercise schedule, you can’t just take a vacation from that when you’re on vacation. I know this because I couldn’t do it. Sure, I’d be a little more lenient with my eating on vacation but that would only mean I had to exercise no matter what while on my trip to make up for the dining out and fancy cocktails. Even if I felt tired and like I desperately just needed to RELAX - what you’re supposed to do on vacation - I wouldn’t allow it. I would work out anyway, it would feel like torture, and afterward I’d convince myself that would help me from returning home from my trip a few pounds heavier. 

Ugh. 

This mentality was pure HELL. I didn’t think it at the time. I must have been in denial and truly thought I was better off for not letting myself be relaxed about food and exercise while on vacation. I never gave myself a damn break. 

When I decided to plan my family’s first trip to Disney in 2017 I was already slowly moving into intuitive eating but still had a lot of work to do.  My travel agent suggested getting to the parks first thing in the morning to avoid crowds. I was going to be at Disney for a FULL WEEK. How the HELL was I supposed to work out? I know how I am and I need to workout in the morning. Thinking that I’d go to the parks early and then work out later in the day would never happen. 

I was also worried about the eating situation. All of our family vacations leading up to our Disney trips would be week-long house rentals in places like Lake Placid and Cape Cod. I could pretty much control my eating for at least breakfast and lunch because we would go grocery shopping and have a kitchen. This Disney trip would be my first week-long trip with my kids in a hotel room where all of our meals would have to be dining out somewhere. 

OH LORD. I’m going to gain 20 pounds on this trip if I can’t workout and have to eat out three times a day for one week straight!

PANIC.

The last time I had been in Disney I worked there my senior year in college as part of  the Disney College Program. I was an attractions hostess in the then-MGM studios (now Hollywood Studios) and participated in a marketing internship program. Fast forward to 2017 … instead of getting excited to return to Disney as a mom with my two sons, I was worrying about my weight, what I’d eat, and the potential lack of gym time and running during my vacation week. 

We arrived mid-afternoon on a Saturday to our hotel on Disney property. We didn’t plan for anything that day other than hanging out at the pool and dinner later. I took my boys down to the pool, sat back in a lounge chair, and a pool waiter came by and asked if I’d like anything. Hmmmm. I’ll have a beer!

I sat back in my lounge chair, sipped my beer, watched my boys having the best time ever in the pool, and slowly began to relax. 

We need to let ourselves be free of food worry especially when we’re on vacation. Just like being happy and free when you were a kid!

We need to let ourselves be free of food worry especially when we’re on vacation. Just like being happy and free when you were a kid!

The days to follow started with me getting up promptly at 6AM so that I could be the first to get ready. I’d run down the hall to get coffee and I was actually feeling excited to start the day. WHAT? Funny because I didn’t love my Disney College Program experience AT ALL. I swore I’d never return. I told my husband we’re not taking our kids to Disney because it is fake, crowded, and that I’d much prefer being in the Adirondacks! Ha.

Months before the trip I had slowly started my intuitive eating journey with lots of doubts, starts, and stops. The fact that I started ditching the diet mentality is probably what helped me tremendously on this trip to not be so psychotic about exercise. If we had taken this trip a few years earlier this story would have had a different ending.

I didn’t worry about what I was eating. I didn’t try to make “more healthy” substitutions. I just …. ATE FOOD.  I ate well if I was ravenous, and when I felt a little “vacation bloat” I ate less. One thing I DID NOT do was beat myself up. It’s vacation for heaven’s sake!

My strong disliking of Disney culture touting itself as the ultimate family getaway, plus my dread at the thought of crowds, long lines, and unrealistic high hopes tied to a Disney vacation gave me nothing but anxiety leading up to this trip. I couldn’t believe about one day into the trip how my mentality flipped around completely and I was actually ENJOYING myself and planning when we could return!

Most of all, this was a first family vacation in about eight years where I didn’t exercise and had minimal body-bashing thoughts. Yup. I’ve been on vacations where I’ve worked out most days and worried about how bloated I felt. It’s so sad to think how many of my vacations were not relaxing because I wasted too much time and energy trying to keep my body in tip-top shape rather than relax and let go. 

Our first Disney trip in 2017 paved the way for future vacations. After that I started re-thinking exercise on vacations. I still pack a workout outfit of two but I only use them if I truly have an urge to workout or go for a run and see the sights of wherever I’m visiting. I don’t exercise on vacations as a form of food punishment. 

The best part of all? I get to relax. And I know that everything will be ok. No matter what I eat. No matter how little exercise I do.

Can anyone relate to this??? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!!